The Unnao Rape Case: A teenaged victim, powerful politicians and a police unwilling or unable to do their job
The Unnao Rape case has been a roller coaster of criminal intimidation, lack of accountability, apathy, and police inaction.
A 17-year-old girl filed a complaint accusing BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar of sexual assault and rape in 2017. This complaint set off a series of shocking events and suspicious incidents that show the kind of clout politicians wield, all leading up to what seems like a blatant assassination attempt on the girl, her lawyer, and her family.
Tl;dr? Scroll down to the bottom of this article for the latest updates in this case.
Here’s what you need to know:
The incidents of sexual assault allegedly took place in June 2017.
Prior to the MLA case coming to light, the same survivor had filed an FIR under section 366 of the IPC - Kidnapping with the intent to coerce into marriage. The survivor stated that she was enticed into moving to Kanpur by a woman, Shashi Singh, and her two children - a daughter and a son - under the pretext of helping her find employment. The son, Shubham Singh, allegedly abducted her on the night of June 11, 2017 and raped her multiple times along with his driver, Awdhesh Tiwari.
Subsequently, Singh and Tiwari allegedly trafficked her and sold her to other, unknown individuals.
On June 20, she was able to file an FIR against these perpetrators. After this FIR was filed, Uttar Pradesh Police tracked her down, and sent her for a medical examination. Two days later, she was heard by a Judicial Magistrate. Upon learning that she was a minor at the time, a separate FIR was filed under the POCSO Act, and all the accused named were arrested and sentenced to jail.
Two months later, in August 2017, the survivor wrote an open letter to Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of UP, stating that before the events mentioned in this FIR, on June 4, 2017, she had been taken to the home of Kuldeep Singh Sengar under the pretext of being given employment, and raped.
Her statement was recorded by the police on June 22, 2017.
In her statement, the police did not allow her to name her assailant.
One year later, in April 2018, no progress had been made on her case.
Both the survivor and her family started raising questions about police inaction; and immediately came under pressure.
On April 8, the survivor attempted to immolate herself in front of Yogi Adityanath’s residence, as an act of protest - saying that the police had taken no action in her case.
Immediately after this, her father was assaulted and beaten up by goons allegedly sent by Sengar, led by Sengar’s brother. A medical examination was done, which found injuries consistent with his complaint - and then called before a magistrate. He was taken into judicial custody, but no action was taken.
On April 9, her father succumbed to his injuries.
These two incidents led to the filing of an FIR against Sengar’s brother, and his subsequent arrest. Six police officers were suspended. The father's death was the straw that broke the camel’s back: the public was outraged. The state government referred the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation, and the case was shifted to the Allahabad High Court.
By mid-April, the Allahabad High Court framed charges and issued orders for the arrest of MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar. Along with him, Shashi Singh was also arrested for taking the girl to him.
The persecution of the girl started in full earnest here. Sengar’s supporters began hounding her and her family. One notable example was how her uncle, who was a driving force behind the calls for justice against Sengar, was arrested in November 2018 in an 18-year gun firing case.
The CBI probe indicted the MLA, and several individuals connected to him, on grounds of attempting to scare the survivor’s family into dropping the case against him. A witness to the assault, Mohammed Yunus, died under suspicious circumstances.
The invective that the survivor faced throughout this case was horrendous. A BJP MLA called the survivor a ‘mother of three’, and demanded that Sengar be given a clear chit, as no one would attempt to rape a mother of three.
The threat to the survivor and her family was so real that the Court provided her with two security personnel.
This brings us to this Sunday - July 29, 2019.
A full two years after the assault, the survivor was travelling in a car with her family and her lawyer, to visit her above mentioned uncle who is still in jail. On their way back, their car was hit by a truck driven recklessly on the wrong side of the road. The truck’s numberplate had been painted black.
The girl’s family members died in the accident. One of them was an aunt, who was a witness to the assault.
Their security personnel were not present.
The girl and her lawyer survived; however, this makes one thing clear - the survivor is being targetted, and a coordinated effort is being made to eliminate key witnesses, a conspiracy of undue influence is under way, and the government has failed to protect the young girl victim.
It took a year for this MLA’s name to be even included in a case where he was the primary accused. The issue had to be taken to the Chief Minister’s doorstep, before anyone took any notice.
UP BJP leader Chandramohan told the Hindustan Times, “Our government follows a zero tolerance policy on crime. The road mishap is unfortunate. We don't want the opposition to indulge in politics.”
How is that even possible? The BJP has created an atmosphere of zero accountability for its political leaders. This is a case that is two years old, and with almost all key witnesses either dying or being other wise dealt with, where the police have shown marked apathy, and the survivor is at the centre of a clear conspiracy, a victim of the influence, money power, and muscle that dominates Indian politics today. This appears to be the new age promised by the BJP.
Just to recap:
She was raped by multiple people, most importantly, an MLA of her home state.
She was trafficked and sold.
Her father was beaten to death.
Her uncle was jailed.
Her aunt was killed in an accident, and she is in critical danger herself.
The survivor is now 19 years old.
And here are the latest developments:
The survivor is out of immediate danger after her accident, but the threat to her life continues.
The truck driver has been apprehended, he is now in police custody along with the owner of the truck. Police tracked them down despite the numberplate of the truck being painted over.
An FIR has been registered against Sengar, his brother, and eight other accomplices in connection with the accident. He has been booked under charges of murder, attempt to murder, and criminal intimidation.
The investigation of the accident will be handed over to the CBI, if the survivor or any relatives make the request.